You may love him. You may hate him. You may fall somewhere in the middle of those emotions. No reasonable observer, not even the player’s biggest detractors, can deny that Tiger Woods is at least one of the greatest professional golfers in history if not the best that the PGA has ever before seen. Woods was, when in his prime, at a level all his own, dominating Majors and other weekend events and drawing massive television audiences that could not wait to tune in on Sunday afternoons to either root Tiger on or wait for Woods to be beaten by an underdog.
Those days are now nothing more but memories from a previous era. Gone is the greatest golfer who ever lived, and in his place is a version of Woods that shanks drives, cannot locate a green with the help of GPS, and one that fails to even make cuts at Majors. The state of his play has gotten so poor in 2015 that Washington DC sports columnist Rick Snider has suggested that it would be best for everybody involved if Woods were to retire right now today. What is crazier about that: Snider saying that Woods should retire, or the reality that Snider is not the only person who has that thought this summer?
10. Woods’ Poor Form Isn’t a Blip on the Radar
Pro athletes get hot and they get cold. It happens in every sports from time to time. There is, however, no longer any real evidence to suggest that Tiger Woods is merely in the middle of a dry spell at this point of his career. It is news whenever Woods earns a Top 25 finish these days. Sports stations such as ESPN abandon following Woods before he even gets to hole 9 in the first round of a tournament because he is already out of contention by then. Not only is Woods no longer great. He has become a less-than-average golfer before our very eyes.
9. End the Excuses
The cycle of Woods’ actions before, during and after events has become comically predictable: Woods tells the press that he is feeling great before a tournament, he stinks up the joint on a course, and he then has some explanation for why things did not go his way. It was back in February of this year when Woods blamed an early exit from a tournament that he had no chance of winning on the fact that his “glutes were shutting off,” a line that instantly made for late-night talk show punchlines and for jokes that were told by sports talk radio hosts. Woods would not have to come up with such reasons were he to just retire now and no longer put off the inevitable.
8. The Problem is Psychological
Woods has not been the same player since the fall of 2009 when he famously made contact with a fire hydrant while operating his motor vehicle. That incident occurred nearly six years ago. Pro athletes go through messy divorces and personal setbacks in their lives as do everyday people. There is a long history of such stars being able to put such matters in the past en route to having successful runs in their sports. Whatever happened with Woods stemming from his divorce, it is clear to anybody who has followed his career during the current decade that he has not been the same golfer that he was from 1997 through 2008.
7. The Problems are Physical
It would be easy and possibly even lazy to say that all of Woods’ professional problems stem from his messy divorce that made international headlines. Don’t look now, but Woods has been breaking down as a golfer for years. Numerous changes to his swing coupled with the wear and tear that comes with being the best in any sport have resulted in Woods suffering knee and back injuries. It is an old adage in sports that an athlete’s days are numbered once he begins experiencing such back problems. Woods is no longer the great golfer of old, in part, because he is no longer physically the athlete of old.
6. Competitive Drive
One of the reasons cited for why Woods would not retire in 2015 is because of his competitive drive and because of his ego that has him believing that he can win a tournament whenever he steps out onto a golf course. There is just one problem with that mode of thinking: Woods is literally no longer competitive when playing against the best golfers in the world. Heck, he is barely just a guy out on the range at this point. Woods has fallen off into being a bottom-tier PGA performer, so much so that it is difficult even imagining him hoisting a meaningful trophy again during his career.
5. Other Career Options
One of the hottest takes you will read or hear about why Woods cannot retire in 2015 is that he has made golf his life so much so that he would have nothing else to do were he to walk away from the sport. Those opinions are baseless and beyond ridiculous. Despite his current form, Woods remains one of the most visible professional athletes on the planet. Aside from designing courses and/or working as an analyst, Woods would have his choice of multiple potential business endeavors. Remember, also, that the guy certainly does not need the money.
4. Woods is Loaded
The amount of money that Woods handed over to ex-wife Elin Nordegren via their divorce settlement has been disputed, and it was reported earlier that the golfer was still on the hook for $54 million as part of that deal. Those who would suggest that Woods continues to golf because of his desire for financial security should remember that his net worth is estimated to be around $640 million. That does not include future earnings that Woods can and will make once he does call time on his playing career. Woods may never again win a Major, but he could retire today and still live a fine existence without having to worry about paying his bills.
3. When it’s Gone, it is Gone Forever
Time has different ways of crippling great athletes. A 28-year-old National Football League running back can rush for 1,500 yards in a season and then be finished in the league the next campaign. Meanwhile, a player such as Michael Jordan was able to feature in the National Basketball Association long after his prime had faded. When the “it” that makes a pro athlete is gone, it is gone for good and it never comes back. Woods will be 40 years old at the start of 2016. His body has already begun to betray him. Woods getting that figurative “it” back whether or not he retires at this stage of his life is an unrealistic dream.
We in society do not like to remember all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana and others for what they were in the final days of their careers. We remember them for what they were when they were the best in their fields. Woods has done well to cement a legacy in golf that will live on for generations regardless of what he does in the future. That legacy does nevertheless take a hit each time Woods cannot make a cut at a Major and each time he has to leave a tournament early for one reason or another. Every great athlete has to eventually retire and let fans remember his for what he was back in the day. That time is now for Woods.
1. Retirement Doesn’t Have to be Permanent
Mario Lemieux. George Foreman. Brett Favre. Michael Jordan. These great athletes and others like them walked away from their sports only to return. That option would be on the table for Woods if he were to retire in 2015. Walking away from golf for at least an entire year if not for two would allow Woods to rest and physically, psychologically and emotionally recover from all that has occurred over the past six years. Maybe he could come back as good as new for 2017 or 2018. Perhaps, though, Woods would learn that the retirement life is one that suits him well.